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Environmental Consequences of

Offshore Wind Power Generation

M.Sc. Dissertation in Estuarine and


Coastal Science and Management

Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies


University of Hull

April 2001

Institute of Estuarine & Coastal


Studies (IECS)
The University of Hull
Cottingham Road
Hull
HU6 7RX
UK

Tel: +44 (0)1482 465667 or 465661


Fax/Tel: +44 (0)1482 465001

E-mail:
iecs@hull.ac.uk Author(s): K Parkinson & IECS
Web site:
http://www.hull.ac.uk/iecs
Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
M.Sc Dissertation by K Parkinson

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS ...............................................................................................................................I


1.0 INTRODUCTION............................................................................................................................1
1.1 Wind power...............................................................................................................................1
1.2 Wind turbine design ..................................................................................................................1
1.3 Generating power from the wind ..............................................................................................2
1.4 Foundation design .....................................................................................................................3
1.6 Government aims and objectives ..............................................................................................4
1.7 Why wind power should be considered ....................................................................................5
1.8 Wind energy potential in Europe ..............................................................................................5
1.9 Summary of wind resource .......................................................................................................6
1.10 UK wind resource ...................................................................................................................6
1.11 The international market .........................................................................................................7
1.12 Economics of wind energy......................................................................................................7
1.13 Operational costs of offshore wind farms ...............................................................................8
1.14 Feasibility and advantages of offshore farms..........................................................................9
1.15 Site selection ...........................................................................................................................9
1.16 Consents for offshore wind farms .........................................................................................10
1.17 Public perception...................................................................................................................10
2.0 EXPLORATION ............................................................................................................................12
2.1 Summary .................................................................................................................................12
2.2 Analysis...................................................................................................................................12
3.0 CONSTRUCTION .........................................................................................................................13
3.1 Summary .................................................................................................................................13
3.2 Analysis...................................................................................................................................13
4.0 OPERATION .................................................................................................................................16
4.1 Summary .................................................................................................................................16
4.2 Analysis...................................................................................................................................16
4.2.1 Substratum and hydrographic regime changes...........................................................16
4.3 Behaviour ................................................................................................................................19
4.3.1 Birds ...........................................................................................................................19
4.3.1.1 Current knowledge .............................................................................................19
4.3.1.2 Conclusions ........................................................................................................22
4.3.2 FISH ...........................................................................................................................22
4.3.2.1 Current knowledge .............................................................................................22
4.3.2.2 Artificial Reefs and Closed Areas ......................................................................22
4.3.3 Sea mammals..............................................................................................................24
4.3.4 Fishing........................................................................................................................24
4.3.5 Marine fouling............................................................................................................24
4.3.6 Boat movements .........................................................................................................26
4.3.6.1 Navigation ..........................................................................................................26

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
M.Sc Dissertation by K Parkinson

5.0 CASE STUDIES ............................................................................................................................28


5.1 Justification of choices............................................................................................................28
5.2 BLYTH...........................................................................................................................................29
5.2.1 Birds ...........................................................................................................................30
5.2.2 Offshore turbines........................................................................................................32
5.2.3 Construction phase .....................................................................................................32
5.2.4 Operation....................................................................................................................35
5.2.5 Conclusion..................................................................................................................37
5.3 THE DANISH EXPERIENCE ..............................................................................................................39
5.3.1 Economics ..................................................................................................................39
5.3.2 The Danish Wind Industry .........................................................................................39
5.3.3 Offshore wind power..................................................................................................40
5.3.4 Tunø Knob offshore wind farm..................................................................................41
5.4 SCROBY SANDS ..............................................................................................................................42
5.4.1 Exploration phase.......................................................................................................42
5.4.2 Construction and Operation .......................................................................................42
5.4.3 Present situation .........................................................................................................43
5.4.4 Summary ....................................................................................................................43
6.0 ALTERNATIVES ...............................................................................................................................44
6.1 Floating offshore wind farm ...................................................................................................44
7.0 CONCLUSIONS ............................................................................................................................47
8.0 FURTHER WORK.........................................................................................................................52
REFERENCES .........................................................................................................................................53
Web sties ..............................................................................................................................55

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
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1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 Wind power

All energy, even wind, originates ultimately from the sun. The earth receives 1013 kWh of energy
every hour and 1 – 2- % of this is converted into wind energy. This occurs because the air at the
equator is heated more than the rest of the earth. Hot air, being lighter than cold, rises to about 10km
altitude and then spreads towards the north and south poles. The Coriolis force then causes the air
movement to bend. The earth’s rotation diverts all the air in the Northern Hemisphere to the right and
the to left in the southern hemisphere. Thus winds in the Northern Hemisphere tend to rotate in an
anti-clockwise direction and those in the south rotate clockwise around low-pressure areas.

Winds are affected by the earth’s surface. Obstacles and roughness in particular slow it. It is these
surface winds that are exploited during wind power generation (web1).

1.2 Wind turbine design

Anemometer and
Nacelle wind vane

Rotor
blades

Electrical
Hub controller

Low speed Cooling unit


shaft
Electrical
generator
Gearbox Cooling
unit Yaw
High speed
shaft
Tower
Figure 1 Components of a wind turbine
• The Nacelle: - this houses the key components of the turbine. It can be entered for servicing via
the tower.
• The rotor blades: - these harness the wind and transfer the energy to the hub.
• The hub: - this connects the rotor blades to the low speed shaft.
• The low speed shaft: - this connects the hub to the gearbox. The shaft rotates relatively slowly,
about 19 – 30 rpm, in standard 600kW turbines.
• The gear box: - this makes the high speed shaft turn approximately 50 times faster than the low
speed shaft to its left.
• The high-speed shaft: - this rotates as a rate of nearer 1 500rpm and drives the electrical
generator. It houses the mechanical break that stops the turbine if the wind speed gets too high.

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• The electrical generator: - this has a maximum capacity of between 500 and 1 500kW on most
turbines.
• The yaw mechanism: - the wind vane senses the wind direction and via the electric controller, the
yaw mechanism turns the nacelle to face the wind.
• The electric controller: - this senses the wind direction and also monitors the integrity of the
turbine as a whole.
• The cooling unit: - this cools the electrical generator.
• The tower: - this carries the nacelle.
• The anemometer and wind vane: - these measure wind speed and direction (web1).

1.3 Generating power from the wind


Power is generated from the wind by converting the force of the wind on the rotor blades into a
torque. The amount of energy that is transferred to the rotor by the wind depends on the density of
the air, the rotor area and the wind speed. The density of the air affects the amount of energy
produced because the kinetic energy of a moving body is proportional to its density or mass. The
density of air changes with atmospheric pressure. Air weighs 1.225 kg per cubic metre at 15ºC, but
will increase in higher humidities. A standard 600kW turbine has a rotor diameter of 43 metres, with
an area of approximately 1 500m2. This area determines the amount of energy that can be captured
from the wind.

As the wind passes the blades of the turbine it is slowed down as its kinetic energy is captured. Thus,
the wind moves slower on the downwind side of the turbine than on the upwind side. The amount of
wind each side of the turbine, however, stays the same, so the wind on the downwind side occupies a
larger area. The pressure of the are increases as it approaches the blades as they act as a barrier, but
this pressure drops away again immediately behind them.

The wind speed is the most important factor when calculating how much energy is available in the
wind for conversion to electricity. The energy content varies with the cube of the wind speed, so if
the wind is twice as high it contains eight times as much energy (Web1).

Table 1 The power per m2 exposed to the wind for different wind speeds
Power of the Wind **

m/s W/m2 m/s W/m2 m/s W/m2


0 0 8 314 16 2509
1 1 9 447 17 3009
2 5 10 613 18 3572
3 17 11 815 19 4201
4 39 12 1058 20 4900
5 77 13 1346 21 5672
6 132 14 1681 22 6522
7 210 15 2067 23 7452
** For air density of 1.225 kg/m3, corresponding to dry air at standard
atmospheric pressure at sea level at 15° C.
The formula for the power per m2 in Watts = 0.5 * 1.225 * v3, where v is the
wind speed in m/s.

From web 1

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
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1.4 Foundation design


There are four options for turbine foundations:

1. Turbines with concrete gravity based caisson foundations that rely on gravity in order to keep the
turbines vertical. This is the most common type of foundation and weighs 1050 tonnes.

2. Turbines with steel gravity foundations with a weight of between 80 to 100 tonnes. The
advantage of this kind of foundation is that it weighs less than the concrete equivalent and are
therefore more easy to transport. They are weighted in position by fill materials such as oline.

3. Turbines with monopile foundations consisting of a single, 2.5 – 4.5m wide steel pile. These
offer the advantage that they can be installed without preparation of the seabed.

4. Turbines with tripods foundations consisting of three-legged steel jackets. This design is
predominantly used in deeper waters (Metoc, 1999).

Figure 2 Concrete support structure

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
M.Sc Dissertation by K Parkinson

Figure 3 Piled steel support structure

These designs both take into consideration the wind and wave loadings in the area. Wave loading
was considered more important in the concrete design, whereas with the steel design, the wind and
waves contribute equally to the loading.

The ultimate choice of design depends on the nature of the substratum. In the case of the
concrete caisson the particle size of the substratum is important, as this will determine how
well the foundations would be supported. When considering an all steel turbine it is
necessary to look at the surface profile of the substratum as this will affect how well the three
piles support the turbine (ETSU, 1995a ).

1.6 Government aims and objectives


The UK Government has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by the
year 2000 in its white paper entitled “This Common Inheritance”. This aim has been taken further
and it the Government hopes that by the year 2000 1000 mega watts (MW) of electricity will be
generated by renewable energy systems each year, a target which has since been raised to 1 500MW.
By 2010 it is expected that 10% of the nation’s energy demand will be met by renewable forms of
energy (Blyth EIA, 1998, 1998).

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The most significant advance in the area of renewable energy recently has been the United Nations
Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC) which took place in Kyoto in 1997. This convention
demands that greenhouse gas concentrations must be stabilised at a level such that human interference
with the climate system is prevented (Reddy et al, 1999).

New and renewable energy sources are high on the Government’s agenda. Its ultimate aim is to use
alternate sources of energy production wherever they are economically and environmentally
acceptable rather than traditional methods involving fossil fuels. This approach has been adopted in
order to secure diverse and sustainable energy supplies, to reduce emissions of pollutants, and to
support and internationally competitive industry (WEFS2).

1.7 Why wind power should be considered


The greatest advantage of wind power is that it produces electricity without producing emissions of
greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur (NOx and SOx). Wind
power has no requirement of finite resources such as fossil fuels, or the transportation of fuel and
combustion by-products (WEFS2).

Table 2 shows the emission reduction when a unit of electricity is generated using wind power as
against a conventional coal-fired power station. From WEFS2

Table 2 Displaced emission values.


Emission type Displaced emission (g/kWh
produced)
CO2 750 – 1000
SOx 10 – 13
NOx 4-5

1.8 Wind energy potential in Europe


Studies show that wind energy is the most valuable resource in Europe. Densely populated European
countries have problems exploiting this resource using land based wind farms, therefore offshore
farms are an attractive alternative. A study by ETSU for the Department of Trade and Industry
(1995) investigated the potential for offshore wind energy production in the European Community as
a whole. Navigational charts, wind data and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) contributed to
producing maps and tables showing the most important areas of wind resource around the EC.

There are two main constraints on offshore wind farm development; natural and man-made. Water
depth, seabed slope and distance from land all affect the potential for exploiting the wind resource.

It is easier and more economical to install structures close to the shore as it involves lower cabling
and communication costs than for those installed further offshore. However, such turbines may be
less acceptable on aesthetic grounds.

Deutscher Wetterdienst-Seewetteramt (DWS) the German Meteorological Service has archives of a


huge amount of marine meteorological data that is collected voluntarily by ship officers. This data
include information about:

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• Wind speed

• Wind direction

• Air pressure

• Temperature

• Humidity

• Wave height

All this data has been put into GIS and the information was collated to describe the wind energy
potential for each European Country.

In general areas in the north - west of Europe experience the best wind conditions. However,
southern and eastern parts of the North Sea and the Baltic have the most extensive resources. The
depth of the Mediterranean limits its resources (ETSUb, 1995).

1.9 Summary of wind resource


Ireland Eastern coast especially good
Average wind speeds higher than England and Wales
Denmark and Germany Baltic area – shallow water and good wind conditions
Wadden Sea National Park reduces area available
Resources increase further from land
Netherlands/Belgium Wadden Sea National Park reduces area available
Good resource near Friesian Islands
France Good areas along Channel and Brittany coastline
Atlantic resource – good shallow water and high wind
Portugal and Spain Resources are limited by water depth
Winds higher on Atlantic coast
Italy Low wind resource
Greece Water depth biggest limiting factor
Wind good in Ionian Sea
Long coastline increases resource (ETSUb, 1993)

1.10 UK wind resource


The UK has one of the largest wind resources in Europe, 40% of the European total. Currently there
is only the capacity to generate 4 000MW of electricity, a value which needs to be increased to 45
000MW(Blyth EIA, 1998, 1998).

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The wind resource is not uniform over the whole country. It is influenced by local weather systems
and the presence of hills and buildings. Wind speeds increase with height above sea level and height
above ground. Speeds also vary over time.

In the UK winds are predominantly westerly, are stronger in the afternoon and weakest at night, also
stronger during the winter.

In order to obtain an average wind speed value for a site it is necessary to carry out measurements for
some time and take an average over about ten years. As the speed varies with height, measurements
should be made at the height of the hub of the proposed turbine. This process is costly and projects
cannot often wait for the data. In these situations data are collected over a far shorter period of time
and compared to a site nearby with a greater wind history. The long-term annual wind speed rate can
be predicted by comparing the values.

The wind resource can only be predicted if the wind speed and the location of the turbines are known.
Various models, such as NOABL, are available to do this. The potential of the wind farm can only be
calculated if three other factors are considered. First, the cost of the wind farm must be compared to
other forms of energy production. Second, the electricity network must be taken into consideration.
It is predicted that 10% of the nation’s energy demand can be generated by wind power without
effecting the electricity network. Thirdly, the public must be consulted and planning must be
obtained (WEFS9).

1.11 The international market


An international market is already developing. Wind power development began in Europe and the
USA during the 1970s. Technology has moved forward significantly in that time period and
manufacturers are constantly making components that are bigger and better. Wind power’s cost
effectiveness and environmental benefits are being recognised world-wide.

This being the case, many Governments are setting targets to increase wind generation capacity.
Therefore, there will be an increased for wind turbine components over the next 5 – 10 years. In
1995 the average cost of a turbine per installed kW is £1000. Therefore the international market was
worth about £1 billion then. There is no evidence that this expansion of the industry is going to slow
down over the next few years, so it should remain a very lucrative industry (WEFS10).

1.12 Economics of wind energy


Wind is freely available and does not pollute the atmosphere. Wind power generation is therefore not
a risky investment, as it has an uninterrupted power source. At present it is cheaper to produce
energy from the wind than it is when using coal or nuclear power.

Table 3 Electricity generating costs from different fuels – from BWEA1

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Technology Plant cost Fuel cost Overhead and Total


(£/kW) (p/kWh) Maintenance generating cost
costs (p/kWh) (p/kWh)

Coal 850 - 1090 1.3 0.7 3.5 - 4.5


Nuclear 1100 - 1350 0.4 0.6 4.5 - 6.0
Gas 380 - 560 1.1 0.3 2.3 - 2.9
Wind 650 - 900 0 0.8 - 1.0 2.7 - 4.9

As with all forms of electricity production, it is only economically viable if the cost of production is
less than its selling price. In the case of wind power the cost of the fule is removed at the outset, as
the wind is a free resource.

Table 4 Components of the cost of electricity generation

Capital cost of building the power plant and connecting it to the grid
• development
• planning applications
• land purchase or rent
• feasibility studies
• turbines
• foundations
• commissioning costs
Running costs such as the fuelling and maintaining the plant
Financing cost, the cost of repaying investors

The Government supports wind energy through its NFFO, the non-fossil fuel obligation. A
competitive bidding system allows plans for renewable energy schemes to be proposed using a
variety of technologies, such as hydro-electricity as well as wind power. The most successful bidders
are then awarded contracts to generate electricity. As a result of this process, 400mW of electricity
are already being produced. At the present time, the customer is paying the extra costs that are
associated with supporting renewable energy technologies. This is typically about 1% of the average
family electricity bill over a year. (BWEA1)

Energy from wind power is an economically sound proposition. It is:

• Economically viable

• Technically feasible

• Environmentally sustainable

1.13 Operational costs of offshore wind farms


The first problem associated with offshore wind farms is that they are often difficult to access and are
located in a difficult environment. As wind speeds are higher offshore, turbines generated more
electricity in this location than do land based turbines. Therefore, they suffer from more problems
that are related to day to day wear and tear.

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
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A study comparing the operational costs of Fjaldene, a land based wind farm and Tunø Knob, an
offshore farm, showed the differences in the costs of maintenance of the two farms. While the
amount of money spent on each farm was very similar, it coast more to repair the offshore farm as it
took more time to travel out to it.

The turbines at Tunø Knob needed more consumables than those at Fjaldene. This involved an oil
change to allow the gears to work more efficiently in the marine environment.

It has been suggested by Vestas, a Danish wind technology company, that special boats or barges
should be built in order to facilitate the maintenance of offshore turbines. Another suggestion was
that if the wind farm was big enough, then an engineer could be present on the site at all times to
carry out repairs (Pederson, 1998).

1.14 Feasibility and advantages of offshore farms


Wind power bas been considered more seriously since the Kyoto Conference in 1997, (web2) when
the world’s powers looked at ways to combat global climate change. As much of the north of Europe
is densely populated it seemed logical to consider the offshore wind resource, if the targets for power
generation from renewable or non-fossil fuel sources were to be met. The 1997 White Paper of the
European Commission suggested that the total wind capacity of Europe could increase from the 1997
level of 4450 MW to 40 000MW by 2010, and that 20% of this could be sited offshore (Gaudiosi,
1999).

There are many advantages to siting wind farms offshore. Offshore wind speeds are significantly
higher than those onshore, the energy yield can be up to 73% higher. However, the majority of
economically optimised turbines will only generate 50% more energy. Although wind power
generation does not require stable wind speeds, a constant wind resource is more desirable than a
dead calm. At seam such periods are very short lived, if they occur at all, so the effective use of wind
turbines power generation capacity will be higher at sea than on land.

The smooth surface of the water is another advantage as it results in a smaller increase in wind speed
with height above sea level. Therefore it may be possible to use lower and therefore cheaper towers
to generate the same amount of energy. Offshore turbines will also have a longer lifetime, as
temperature differences are far smaller than they are on land. This results in lower mechanical fatigue
load. Scientists in Denmark predict that being sited offshore will increase a turbines lifetime by 5 to
10 years as compared to the same turbine being located on land (web1).

1.15 Site selection


Dave Farrier of PowerGen has described the criteria for a successful offshore wind site (Reddy et al,
1999):

• High wind speed in combination with low wave forces

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
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• Large scale development potential, allowing the economies of scale to be realised

• Suited to low coast foundations – shallow water

• Near strong grid network - allowing the costs of onshore infrastructure to be kept to a minimum

• Close to port facilities

• No environmentally sensitive aspects

1.16 Consents for offshore wind farms


In order to erect a wind turbine in an offshore location, it is necessary to obtain consent from the
following:

• A Licence from the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) under the Food and
Environment Protection Act 1995 (FEPA).

• A Consent from DETR under the Coast Protection Act 1949.

• Developments above 50MW require a consent from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)
under the Electricity Act of 1989.

• Consent from the Crown Estates as landowners.

• Developments next to designated sites would have to adhere to the Conservation (Natural
Habitats etc) Regulations 1994.

• An Environmental Impact Assessment is also needed. (Jacobson, 1998)

1.17 Public perception


Unfortunately, at the present time wind power generation appears to be largely mis-understood.
Whenever wind farms are proposed, local newspapers can almost always be quoted as saying “local
residents are up in arms in protest”. Curiosity rapidly metamorphoses through concern to conflict,
just through lack of knowledge. It is widely appreciated that people are fearful of that which they do
not understand, a problem that must be addressed (Reddy et al, 1999).

A large proportion of the nation is not aware of what a modern day wind turbine looks like, but rather
visualise old windmills. People do not appreciate how much cleaner the energy is that is generated by
wind power as compared to that which is produced by a coal fired power station, for example.

A survey Denmark has analysed peoples support of energy generated by wind power, and also
summarised information from other surveys that have been carried out in Britain, the USA, Canada,
Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. In 1995 a survey showed that 42% of Americans thought
that the generation of energy from renewable sources should be high on the Governments agenda.

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
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Following a similar survey in Denmark, 90% of Danes also thought renewable energy systems were
the way of the future (Damborg et al).

The main problem in promoting wind power is that a large proportion of the public do not really
understand the subject that they are discussing. Many people think that turbines are much noisier
than they actually are, for example. Studies show that most people would rather live in an
aesthetically pleasing area with no turbines, than reduce pollution from the burning of fossil fuels
(Damborg et al).

A survey in Britain produced the following information (table ) about the general opinions of those
who support or oppose wind energy.

Table 5 Public opinions of wind energy

The profile of those against

• renewable energy cannot solve our energy problems

• wind turbines are unreliable and dependent on the wind

• wind energy is expensive

• wind turbines spoil the scenery

• wind turbines are noisy

The profile of supporters

• renewable energy is very much an alternative to other energy sources

• the climate change theory must be taken seriously

• wind energy is limitless unlike fossil fuels

• wind energy is non polluting

• wind energy is safe

Therefore there is a very apparent need for much public education in this area. If people were made
to understand wind energy generation, then perhaps more wind farms would go ahead.

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
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2.0 EXPLORATION

Exploration

seismic drilling

fish spawning area noise sediment disturbance

water column
sea mammals

benthos turbidity
drilling muds

Figure 4 Conceptual model to show the potential environmental consequences of the exploration
phase of turbine construction

2.1 Summary

The exploration phase will effect the environment through the drilling and seismic activity that will
be carried out in order to establish the nature of the environment. The drilling will cause disturbance
to the sediment, which in turn will affect the water column and benthic flora and fauna by altering the
turbidity of the water. The seismic activity may have an affect on the fish and sea mammals. Both of
these activities will generate noise that will affect the animals in the area and may also affect the
human population depending on the proximity of the site to the shore.

2.2 Analysis

Due to the nature of this phase, any environmental consequences of the exploration phase will be
short lived. The significance of any of the consequences outlined in figure 4 depends on the number
of turbines being constructed and whether it is an environmentally sensitive time of year or not.
Most impacts can be partially, if not completely, removed if the exploration is carried out a well
considered time of year. For example, seismic activity will only have an effect on spawning fish in
the area if carried out during the spawning season. If this time is avoided then there will be little or
no effect on the spawning community.

Excavated sediment will have to be relocated somewhere. The dumped sediment will smother
communities in the disposal site and will cause local changes in water depths. This could cause
problems with navigation depending on the volume of sediment moved. The new sediment may
cause changes in the species composition of the area. New populations may be brought into the
disposal site and these may out compete the smothered individuals, thus altering the local community
(pers.comm. Dr.M.Elliott, Senior lecturer, University of Hull).

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
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3.0 CONSTRUCTION

cable Construction pilings

sea mammal
trenching tunnelling fish
behaviour
behaviour

resuspension subsidence
migration
smothering pattern
water bathymetric/
column hydrogaphic
change

benthos sediments

prey
disturbance
fisheries

Figure 5 Conceptual model to show the potential environmental consequences of the construction
phase of turbine construction

3.1 Summary

The construction phase will cause problems in a wider variety of ways than are associated with the
exploration phase. The installation of the pilings will affect the behaviour of fish and sea mammals
and may ultimately affect their migration patterns. Trenching and tunnelling for cables may cause
subsidence and will also cause sediment to be resuspended. This sediment may smother the benthos
and cause a drop in the prey available for fisheries. Also, there will be an increased number of boat
movements associated with the works.

3.2 Analysis

As with the exploration phase, any adverse environmental consequences related to the construction of
the turbines, for example, noise, waste, and increased boat movements, should be relatively short
lived. Also, most impacts should be ameliorated with good site selection and by avoiding
environmentally sensitive times of year, especially spawning periods. In order to understand when
such periods would occur, good communication links would be essential between all interest and user

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groups in the area. All those concerned would also therefore be able to carry out their own
monitoring to ensure that components of the system are not affected excessively, for example the
RSPB will want to monitor bird populations during construction (Metoc, 1999 & Still, 1996).

An increase in boat movements may obstruct navigation by other vessels in the area (Figure 6).
Therefore, during the construction phase, as area may have to be designated that it is solely for the
use of transport barges, cable installation equipment transport, drilling barges and other vessels
associated with the construction of the wind farm. This area would be closed to other users, such as
fishermen, yachts, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and water sportsmen.

Figure 6 Illustration of additional boat movements during construction

There is the potential for some contamination of the sediments and the local marine organisms when
cementing in the foundations, though these effects can be reduced by good engineering practice.
Also, organic polymers and heavy metals could be released in the area, the presence of which could
decrease the rate of recolonisation of the area. This would have a sequential effect up the food chain
on the fauna that relies on the benthos as a food supply. Thus, the Environment Agency must
approve all chemicals to be used in such a project and contractors must use methods that reduce the
likelihood of chemicals being released in to the environment.

Noise generated during the construction and installation of the turbines could have an effect on the
fish and sea mammals in the area. The extent of the impact would depend on the frequency, sound
power level, duration of the noise and the number of sensitive species in the area. The use of
underwater bubble curtains could reduce remove or at least greatly reduce the effects of the

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construction noise by interfering with the propagation of noise through the water column (Metoc,
1999).

Figure 5 also shows that any sediment removed from the area during construction will have an impact
on the environment. During removal, some sediment will become resuspended. This could cause a
problem for any filter feeders in the area, as their gills could become clogged. It would also reduce
visibility for mobile fauna, such as fish, in the area. Any sediment that is relocated would smother the
existing benthos at the disposal site, as discussed above.

Once the foundations are in place, the addition of the remaining components should have very little
effect on the system, through good site management.

The construction process can be summarised by the following flow chart, (adapted from Metoc, 1999)

Marine construction vessel activities on site

Site preparation and foundation installation

Excavated spoil disposal

Tower, nacelle, generator, hub and blade installation

Cable installation

Construction of ancillary buildings and infrastructure

Figure 7 Stages of construction process

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4.0 OPERATION

4.1 Summary
The presence and operation of the turbines will have a number of impacts on the environment. The
effect that the piles have on the substratum will depend on whether they have been constructed on
hard or soft sediments. If they are stabilising a sandbank then they may disrupt local sediment
transport regimes and this may effect coastal protection. A consequent loss of benthos will affect fish
feeding and nursery areas. This is also true for seabirds and mammals. Hard substrata will also be
affected through changes in the local habitat and erosion – deposition cycles. If there are a large
number of turbines in one area, the hydrographic regime may also be altered.

The behaviour of the birds, fish and sea-mammals will also be affected by the presence of the
physical structures. This will consequently cause changes in migration, feeding, roosting and
overwintering patterns. Nursery and haulout areas may also be disrupted. Whilst the turbines are
operational, they will generate noise and vibrations and these factors may also affect the local fauna.

The turbines will also be a physical obstruction to all other users of the area, such as pleasure craft,
military boats and fishermen. This is illustrated in figure 8, a conceptual model to show the potential
environmental consequences of the operational phase of turbines construction

4.2 Analysis
4.2.1 SUBSTRATUM AND HYDROGRAPHIC REGIME CHANGES

At present there is very little literature that examines the effect of wind turbines on the sediment in
the locality. However, marine biologists recognise the fact that nay change in the hydrographic
regime will have a consequential effect on the sediments.

A proportion of the energy in wave and tidal current movements is transferred to the movement of
sediment. This amount and type of sediment that is moved depends on the energy of the currents and
waves and their direction of motion. An equilibrium is established with systems so that the amount
and rate at which sediment is supplied to, and redistributed from, a region is kept in balance.

Sediments are moved when water flows over the sediments with a force that is able to overcome the
force of gravity acting on the sediment grains and the friction between the grains and the underlying
bed. The friction between the bottom layers of the water and the bed produces a shear stress at the
bed.

The seabed is not flat, but rather is covered with small and large-scale features, known as bed forms.
Bed forms can be as small as current ripples or as large as sandbanks standing as high as 15m above
the seabed. Currents generate asymmetrical bed forms with the steeper slope facing downstream.
Sediment is transported as bed load up the shallower slope and redeposited on the downward side.
Thus the sediment and bed form migrate across the seabed.

The exact type of bed form that is produced depends largely on the speed at which the current flows.
The faster the current speed, the larger the bed form that is generated. However, the grain size of the
sediment and the depth of the water also affect the bed form.

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If a physical structure is placed in an offshore area, sediment will be scoured as the result of changes
in the water flow. In order to keep the effects to a minimum it is necessary to know and understand
the speed and direction of current flow and the resulting movement of sediment. Before any
construction takes place, the existing bed forms will give a good indication of the speed and direction
of sediment transport. The speed at which a current flows along a sediment transport path is reduced
with distance, which thus reflects the direction of the decreasing current. At higher sediment
transport speeds, typically above 15 m/s, scour hollows develop.

Table 6 Bed forms produced with decreasing current speed

Scour hollows
Linear furrows
Decreasing Sand ribbons
current Transverse sand waves
speed Megaripples
Ripples

Each of the above bed forms produce asymmetry that illustrate the direction of sediment movement.
All of the sediment movements will be important to the flora and fauna in the area. New sediments
may bring food with them, for example, attached to their surface of the individual grains. If a
structure, such as a wind turbine, was to disrupt the sediment movement, many other processes in the
area may also be affected (Open University, 1989).

Plans for offshore wind farms are often associated with sandbanks. However, it is necessary to
understand the processes that go on in these areas and the consequent impact of turbine construction.

Subtidal mobile sandbanks are made up of coarse sediments that are highly dynamic and unstable.
They are predominantly located in areas with strong currents that produce megaripple bed forms and
are often important nursery areas. Mobile sandbanks range from a few hectares to a few kilometres
square in size and have an influence on coastal processes and the hydrography of the area.

The net result of all factors affecting water movement is known as the hydrophysical regime. Any
disruption of this regime, such as the construction of turbines, will have an effect on the physical
integrity of the sediment system. The rates of erosion and deposition of sediment are important in the
maintenance of these systems. At some times of year, a sandbank may experience more intense
conditions and the top may be removed, and then be replaced at a calmer time of year. If turbines
were placed on the top of the sandbank, it is still yet unclear as to whether these processes would
continue to operate. Also, it is unknown whether the loss of the top of the sandbank would affect the
stability of the turbines (Elliott et al, 19980).

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Table 7 Conditions in sedimentary high and low energy areas


Factor Low energy areas High energy area
Current strength and water flow Low High
Slope * Shallow Steep
Water content High Low
Surface water * Much Little
Median particle diameter Small Large
% silt and clay Large Small
Sorting coefficient High Low
Permeability Low High
Porosity Depends on compaction Depends on compaction
Accumulation of organic matter High Low
Salinity variation Low High
Microbial population Large Small
Sediment stability High Low
Oxygen content Low High
Reducing conditions High Low
Carbon nitrogen ratio High Low

From Elliott, (1979) * intertidal areas only

These factors determine the populations that are able to exist in an area. Thus changes in the water
flow and therefore energy in the area will alter the biology. For example figures 9 and 10 show
current flows in an area will be altered by the presence of a turbine and the consequential possible
changes in energy levels.

High energy current

Figure 9 Current flow

High energy current

Potential low
Figure 10 Addition of turbine energy area

The change in energy levels in front of the turbine may cause a change in the community present.

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4.3 Behaviour
4.3.1 BIRDS

4.3.1.1 Current knowledge


It is often thought that the impact of turbines on the local bird populations will be the biggest problem
after the construction of a wind turbine. However, there is much evidence to suggest that this is not
the case.

Studies show that bird populations are affected by wind power and the construction of turbines in
three ways:

• Collision

• Disturbance

• Habitat loss

Table 8 Potential impacts on birds and appropriate mitigation measures

Impact Mitigation measure

Collision Good site selection


Good wind farm design

Disturbance during construction Good site selection


Careful timing of construction

Habitat loss Good site selection


Construction of alternative roosts.

The rate of collisions is related to the characteristics of the site, the species of bird in question, the
design of the turbines and the overall layout of the wind farm in general.

Disturbance is highest during the construction phase. This is due to the extra human activity of
erecting the turbines and preparing the surrounding area. Habitat loss is more significant on land than
offshore. It is not only the direct loss of habitat that causes problems for the birds, but also the
indirect consequences, such as changes in the hydrology of the area on land, or the hydrology at
offshore locations (Lowther, 1996).

The most obvious way to reduce the effect on birds is good site selection. If wind farms are sited
away from ornithologically sensitive sites then the effects on the birds should be almost zero.
However, if this is to be achieved, it is necessary to be able to designate areas as ornithologically
sensitive. Unfortunately, most potential sites for wind farms in coastal locations are areas that
naturally attract birds (Percival, 1998).

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English Nature states that wind farm sites must be:

• At least 800m from areas of high ornithological interest.

• Away from bird migration routes.

• Away from features that will attract high densities of birds.

Following an experimental study in Tjaereborg in Denmark, an 800m exclusion zone was derived as
the maximum distance at which birds were seen to be effected by the turbines (Percival, 1998).

Measurements at a wind farm in the Netherlands showed that one songbird in 5 – 10 000 would
collide with the turbines, so a high number of birds would have to fly past in order for a significant
number of mortalities to occur. It was decided that this would only be the case if the turbines were
sited on a migration route, and also that this problem could be almost completely removed simply by
ensuring that the turbines were not on such a flyway (Percival, 1998).

Dirksen et al. (1998) analysed the nocturnal collision risks of birds with wind turbines in tidal and
semi-offshore areas. Their works shows that wind farm developers must consider nocturnal
movements of the birds as well as those during the day. While birds will roost in fields during the
day it would appear that they prefer to roost in or close to shallow water at night. This means that
different flight paths are used to get from feeding to roosting areas.

Wader and diving-duck movements are below 100m, the height of a turbine, both during the day and
at night. The studies showed that most local bird movements occur at current wind turbine heights,
regardless of species and location. Migrating birds, however, fly much higher, at anything up to a
height of several kilometres. Nocturnal migrants fly at a higher altitude than those that migrate on a
diurnal basis. It is therefore thought that nocturnal migrants are at a lower risk of colliding with
turbines.

Dirksen et al (1998) also suggest that local waders and diving-ducks can adapt to the turbines. These
birds run the risk of colliding with the turbines in coastal and offshore areas, as do migrating birds
that pass the coast in high numbers. Studies of tufted ducks and pochards show that diving-ducks can
see or are at least aware of the turbines. They pass between the turbines on moonlit nights and fly
parallel to them on moonless nights. It is suggested that local wintering birds become used to the
turbines and learn to avoid them. It is not yet known whether migrants passing a wind farm can learn
to react in a similar way (Dirksen et al, 1998).

Studies of the effects of wind turbines on bird populations have been undertaken since the early
eighties, it is a problem that has been recognised for some time and therefore there are many known
mitigation measures. Winkelman carried out one such study in 1983/84. He examined the danger of
medium sized wind turbines to birds. 87 000 birds in 6200 flocks were seen to fly within 200-300m
of the turbines over 340 hours. Only 561 flocks were effected by the turbines in any way. Most
responses were evasive manoeuvres to ensure that there was no collision. Only 1% displayed any
kind of panic reaction. The response was not influenced by bird species, age, flock size or time of
day.

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It was concluded that during daylight and good weather conditions, the chance of bird collision with
medium height turbines was almost zero. The results did show that there was a slight increased risk
of collision during poor weather conditions and at night (Winkelman, 1985).

Five turbines have been installed near the Kreekrak sluices on the North Sea coast of the province of
Zeeland in the Netherlands. This area is used heavily by waders and other water birds. There are
many bird movements due to the tidal cycle in the area. The 250kW capacity turbines are 30m high,
125m apart and run almost continuously. There have been no studies of the disturbance to the birds
due to a lack of control site, however, the number of bird fatalities have been monitored (Musters et
al, 1996).

During a period of one year only 26 carcasses were found; the turbines killed 6, 3 may have died
because of the turbines, 9 were definitely not killed by the turbines. It was not possible to determine
the cause of death of the remaining 8 birds.

The birds were recovered at the same rate throughout the year, so there was no seasonality in the
collisions. Data also showed that there were not more mortalities during migration (Musters et al,
1996).

The nine turbines on the harbour wall at Blyth are located in a Site of Special Scientific Interest,
(SSSI) and a proposed Ramsar site. Studies on the bird populations have been ongoing since 1991.
Blyth has the highest bird activity at any UK wind farm site. As the purple sandpiper overwinters in
the harbour, in order to cause minimum disturbance when the turbines were constructed, the roosting
habitat was enhanced (Still, 1996).

In 1996 there had only been 31 mortalities in 3 years, which is a mortality rate of 1.34
strikes/turbine/year. This figure shows that there are less deaths due to collisions than there are in
relation to traffic and power lines (Still, 1996).

There are laws at all levels that are designed to protect birds. Ornithological interests are especially
considered in SSSIs, National Nature Reserves, Ramsar Areas and Special Protection Areas (SPA)
under the European Community Birds directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (Trinick, 1996).
This directive states that member states must ensure that bird populations are not affected by pollution
or a deterioration in their habitats. This means that managers of designated SPAs pay special
attention to the needs of bird populations.

The RSPB are particularly vocal during any renewable energy scheme proposal. While it understands
that wind power is an attractive alternative to fossil fuels, the RSPB cannot ignore the fact that it
affects bird populations through bird strike, habitat loss and disturbance. It therefore suggests that a
precautionary approach is needed. The RSPB recommends that:

• Any proposed scheme that is to be located near a site or national or international importance for
wildlife is not given permission to go ahead.

• A comprehensive environmental statement must accompany any wind farm proposal.

• Only sensitively sited and designed wind farms should be constructed.

• When wind farms are constructed it must be ensured that biodiversity objectives are met.

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• It is essential that all environmental impacts are monitored before, during and after installation
(Briggs, 1996).

4.3.1.2 Conclusions
Although it would appear that wind turbines do affect bird populations in some ways, research shows
that these impacts are minimal and the effects can be ameliorated relatively easily.

The most significant factor is the location of the wind farm. It is necessary to ensure that the turbines
are not being sited in an ornithologically sensitive area, for example directly in a migration flyway, or
next to a bird breeding ground.

Another factor to consider is the design of the wind farm design itself. With some careful planning,
the impacts on the bird populations can be reduced further. In order to reduce the disturbance to the
birds, construction should not be carried out during the breeding season. Areas should be marked out
and the contractors should not be able to move beyond these limits. Birds must have room to fly
between the turbines without being affected by turbine wake interaction. As yet, there has not been
must research into how far apart the turbines should be, but it thought that a where rotor tips are more
than 120m apart, bird collision are minimised (Lloyd, A 1996).

4.3.2 FISH

4.3.2.1 Current knowledge


At present very little is known about the environmental consequences of offshore wind generation on
fish populations and fishing effort.

4.3.2.2 Artificial Reefs and Closed Areas


The European Artificial Reef Research Network (EARRN) defined artificial reefs in 1996 as:
“submerged structures deliberately placed on the seabed to mimic some characteristics of a natural
reef”. Man has made use of artificial reefs in a variety of ways for many hundreds of years. For
example, in tropical countries, artisanal fishermen have built many inshore reefs in order to increase
catches in local fishing grounds (Aabel et al, 1997).

Normally, reefs are built to increase the carrying capacity of an environment, but in the case of wind
power, they would be used to ameliorate some of the environmental consequences of the wind
turbines.

Artificial reefs have become popular fisheries management tools on a world-wide scale. They are
built to serve a variety of purposes:

• To improve quality and quantity of fish catches

• To provide spawning areas

• To provide refugia for juvenile fish

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• To protect natural stocks of shellfish and finfish

• To protect the shore and reduce rates of beach erosion

• To reduce fishing areas by excluding fishermen

• For experimental reasons (Aabel et al, 1997)

There are data relating to fish and artificial reefs that have been constructed near to or using disused
oilrigs. These data show that fish recruit rapidly to artificial reefs, in some cases within only hours
of construction. Climax populations can be achieved after only a couple of months of the reef being
in place (Aabel et al, 1997).

Therefore, there is the potential for creating similar reefs at the bottom of the wind turbines. As the
turbines will probably disrupt the fishing effort in the area, perhaps the situation should be taken
advantage of, and reefs should be designed and constructed to enhance the local fish populations.
Closed areas may in effect be set up as fishermen will not be able to fish all the way up to the turbines
due to gear restrictions. The combined effect of the closed areas and the reefs should allow fish
stocks to improve significantly and perhaps increase catches in the adjacent fishing grounds, with the
stocks there being fed by the new reef area. (MY thoughts!)

4.3.2.3 Benefits of reefs

Different species will thrive on different reefs. This is due to the fact that different species respond in
various ways to environmental cues, such as current patterns, sounds and shadows. Also, species’
responses will change depending on the stage in the life cycle. For example, many juveniles remain
close to artificial reefs for increased protection from predation (Aabel et al, 1997).

Decommissioned oil and gas rigs provide a habitat for upper and middle water swimmers, such as
saithe, for bottom swimmers such as cod and for sedentary fish species, for example, ling and wolf
fish. Reefs at the bottom of turbines could be expected to do the same (Aabel et al, 1997).

Bohnsack et al (1985) have carried out various studies of fish densities on artificial reefs and have
found them to be consistently high, along with values for biomass and catch rates. It is thought that
artificial reefs allow scattered individuals to congregate (Aabel et al, 1997).

ICIT figures state that 0.055 Kg m3 to 0.62 Kg m3 of fish exist in the North Sea due to the presence of
reefs created by disused platforms. Other estimates state that about 70, 000 pelagic and 9, 000
demersal fish aggregate within 100m of each rig (Aabel et al, 1997).

Populations of cod, herring and plaice, for example, may not increase as a direct result of reef
creation, as these species do not need a reef substratum to reproduce successfully. However, non-
commercial species may breed well on the reefs, providing a more plentiful food resource for the
commercial species (Aabel et al, 1997).

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4.3.3 SEA MAMMALS

Any underwater noise will have the biggest impact on any cetaceans in the vicinity. This is due to the
fact that they rely on sound to communicate, find food and navigate. The movement of the blades of
the turbines could pass through the tower and be emitted through the water. However, the extent of
the impact of this noise will depend on the number of sea mammals in the area or if there are in fact
any there at all (Blyth EIA, 1998).

4.3.4 FISHING

The impact of turbines on fishing depends on the importance of the area as a fishing ground.
Therefore, before construction, local fisheries should be identified and its importance determined. A
fisheries intensity study should be carried out in association with the local Fishermen’s Associations,
local fishermen, the District Inspector of Sea Fisheries for MAFF and the Chief Fishery Officer for
the local Sea Fisheries Committee.

If the area is used intensively for fishing then the turbines will be a physical obstruction for the
fishermen. This may mean that as they trawl along the coast that they have to bring their nets back on
board as they pass the turbines and then recast them. This will mean that more manpower is needed
and the overall fishing effort is reduced.

Fishermen who use drift nets may have to alter their runs slightly so that their nets do not become
tangled with the turbines. Alternative routes should be possible as it is unlikely that any fish
population will be restricted only to the exact location of the turbines.

Potting for lobsters should be relatively undisturbed as long as the turbines have not affected the
lobster populations. Fishermen should be able to set pots and retrieve them, assuming that they are
not laid too close to the turbines (Blyth EIA, 1998).

4.3.5 MARINE FOULING

To date there is little or no literature available on this subject in relation to wind turbines. However,
studies have been carried out on other structures such as oilrigs and many of the principles and
lessons learnt can be applied to turbines.

Oil and gas platforms are ideal sites for settlement for many species of sedentary and sessile marine
organisms. Fouling communities establish themselves following a series of physical, chemical and
biological interactions. Dissolved organic material is adsorbed onto the surface of the metal structure
as soon as it is placed in the water. This results in a net negative charge on the surface. The film of
organic material promotes settlement of micro and macro fouling organisms. For example:
• Sponges
• Anemones
• Bivalve molluscs
• Barnacles
• Crustose algae
The exact composition of the fouling community depends on environmental and biological variables
such as geographic location, light levels, food, depth, temperature and the local hydrographic regime.

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The season during which the structure was put in place is also significant as it determines the species
present in the area.

Fouling communities can become well established only being disrupted by storm damage and
cleaning activities. However, any gaps will be rapidly recolonised by species such as Enteromorpha
spp. Some plants within the photic zone may reach lengths of 20 – 30 cm.

Marine fouling can affect both the structure itself and the operations associated with it. The most
significant problem is that fouling communities obscure the substratum. Fish will attracted to the rich
food supply as will some crustacea. Kelp forests may also develop and cause problems for
maintenance divers. Fouling communities may obscure faults in the metal that will be reducing the
integrity of the structure. Therefore it is very important that these fouling communities are removed.
Although this is a financially expensive process, the compounds used should not adversely affect the
surrounding area.

Most fouling communities are located on the structures from sea level to 30m depth. It increases the
diameter and surface roughness of submersed structures and this increases the hydrodynamic loading.
It has been calculated that a layer of fouling on a North Sea platform would increase the loading by
42.5%. This would increase fatigue damage to the structure. It is therefore necessary to take fouling
communities into consideration when designing turbines, in order to ensure that they will be strong
enough to withstand the extra diameter (Edyvean et al, 1985).

Marine growth has severe implications for corrosion. Such growth provides food conditions for
micro-organisms, for example, sulphate-reducing bacteria, which are capable of damaging steel.
These bacteria are present in a dormant state in normal seawater. However, they throve in areas with
anaerobic conditions and therefore enjoy microenvironments such as those produced under the
baseplates of some barnacle species when they settle on metal offshore structures.

Highly active sulphate-reducing bacteria populations indicate a high risk of biological corrosion.
Five main mechanisms have been proposed to explain corrosion by these bacteria:-

• pitting of low carbon steel

• graphitisation of cast iron

• hydrogen cracking and blistering of steel in high sulphide environments

• cathodic depolarisation -hydrogen produced in anaerobic conditions is used by the bacteria


through the use of hydrogenase enzymes

• biogenically produced iron sulphides act as a cathode and are themselves corrosive.

In some situations, fouling communities may form a barrier between metal surfaces and an oxygen
supply and thus reduce corrosion. However, as yet there is not sufficient evidence to show exactly
the relationship between these communities and corrosion rates (MTD, 1992).

The problems associated with marine fouling communities and additional hydrodynamic loading can
largely be counteracted during the design process. The most significant problem is that of the rapid

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increase in corrosion fatigue cracking. This is therefore an area that needs more research (Edyvean et
al, 1985).

The subject of marine fouling is therefore not a negative environmental consequence of offshore wind
power generation, as in fact the turbines will provide new niches for colonisation. Rather, this topic
is something that the engineers must take into consideration when designing wind farms.

4.3.6 BOAT MOVEMENTS

4.3.6.1 Navigation
The presence of the turbines will increase the potential for collisions in the area. Most UK coastal
waters are used for navigation, so unless turbines are located on rocky outcrops they will become
another obstacle for vessels. Thus, there is a chance that human lives may be lost in an extreme
situation, or that pollutants could be released accidentally into the system if a vessel collided with the
turbines and shed its load into the water.

Turbines should therefore be marked on all Admiralty and fishing charts to ensure that all users of the
area are aware of their exact location. The turbines should also be marked and lit to increase
visibility. It has also been suggested by the DETR that offshore turbines should have radar reflectors
and fog signalling devices (METOC,1999).

4.3.7 Tourism

One concern with the construction of offshore wind turbines is that the public will become curious.
This could mean an increased number of boat movements in the area as people go and to see them
closer to. Such activity could affect existing boat movements in the area and increase the potential
for collisions. The people visiting the turbines may not have a good understanding of the area and
may fall into difficulties, or they may collide with other vessels in the area (pers. com. David Still.
Director Border Wind Ltd).

4.3.8 Noise

A study by PowerGen has compared the noise output of various different kinds of power station, such
as natural gas burning power stations, coal-fired power stations and wind farms.

As many of the planned wind power sites in the UK will be located offshore, it is thought that the
1.5MW turbines will have a minimal impact on the local residents. Noise levels will be low
compared to other industrial sources, so should not adversely effect bird populations either.

Studies show that noise from sites close to human populations only present a problem when the wind
exceeds the cut-on speed of the turbines, usually 4.5 m/s at a height of 30 – 40 m. At these speeds it
is not only the turbines causing noise disturbance, but also an increased level of background noise
from the interaction of the wind with trees, vegetation and other structures. At much higher wind
speeds the noise of the turbines will become lost in the background noise, due to the fact that wind
turbine noise will increase at a rate of 1dB(A) per m/s, whereas background noise increases at a
greater rate. Wind turbine noise is therefore more of a problem at the critical wind speed, where the

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difference between the wind turbine and background noise is at its highest, about 7 – 8 m/s at 10m
height.

Much of the noise that was produced by wind turbines has been removed by changes in the design of
the turbines themselves. Originally the rotor was cutting through the wake of the tower in downwind
machines, resulting in strong impulses at about 1.5Hz. New, upwind machines so suffer from this
problem. Similarly the generator, cooling fans and yaw mechanisms have been better insulated to
reduce noise propagation. Thus most of the noise that originates from turbines comes from the rotor
blades passing through the air, a factor which can only be minimised by good aerodynamic design
(Snow, 1997).

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5.0 CASE STUDIES

5.1 Justification of choices


Blyth: - The nine existing turbines will be compared to the two being built 1km offshore from the
mouth of the harbour.

The Danish Experience: - The wind farms in Denmark are well established and the Danish
Government is well on the way to meeting targets for reducing CO2 emissions. A study of these wind
farms will allow an overview of the wind generation as a whole.

Scroby Sands: - This wind farm is still only in the planning stages. Planning permission was applied
for in 1998 but was refused.

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5.2 BLYTH

Figure 11 Blyth Harbour Wind Farm

Although this project is examining the environmental consequences of offshore wind power
generation, it is valuable to look at the coastal turbines at Blyth in Northumberland and then compare
them to the potential impacts of the two turbines which are to be built offshore. Borderwind Ltd has
carried out significant levels of monitoring of the environmental consequences of the turbines (David
Still, Borderwind, pers.comm.).

Wansbeck District Council granted permission for the breakwater wind farm in February 1992. The
Blyth wind farm consists of nine 300kW turbines located at 200m intervals along the 1.2km East Pier
of the harbour (Figure 11). The total capacity of the turbines is 2.7 MW, a value that is achieved by
wind speeds of 13 m/s. This allows 6GWh of electricity to be produced every year, enough energy
for 6000 houses.

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Figure 12 Map showing the area surrounding the wind farm

5.2.1 BIRDS

The wind farm is situated in an industrial harbour in which there are up to 5000 bird movements a
day. The highest number of birds is recorded during the winter, but up to 2000 are found there even
during the summer months. The site is designated as a SSSI in order to protect the purple sandpipers
that roost there (Still et al, 1996).

Extensive studies have been carried out on the impacts of the turbines on the local bird populations
(Still et al, 1996). Purple sandpipers, cormorants, eider ducks, black-headed gulls, herring gulls, and
great black-backed gulls use the area for many reasons, such as feeding roosting and overwintering.

The purple sandpiper uses the area for roosting, and do so on the beams under the harbour walkway,
as they are available at all stages of the tide. The birds have only been disturbed from this roosting
site during severe weather conditions during January 1993. The presence of the turbines has not
altered their roost selection (Still et al, 1996).

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The construction of the turbines disturbed the cormorant population and they moved. Before the
turbines were put in place the cormorants roosted on the Admiralty Dolphin, which is a man-made
structure that projects from the inner side of the East Pier between two of the turbines. During the
construction phase, they moved to other roost sites, but remained in the harbour area. However, once
the construction process was completed they returned to their original roost site. The impact was
therefore very short lived and rectified completely once the contractors left the area. The cormorants
are able to fly between the turbines whilst operating without sustaining any injury. There have been
no records of the turbines having killed any cormorants.

Four eider ducks have been killed after being in collision with the turbines rotor blades. However,
studies suggest that this species is more prone to collision as their large body size and small wing
span render them rather un-manoeuvrable in the air. Data show that they have also collided with
overhead power lines (Still et al, 1996).

Studies carried out in Blyth suggest that the 1000 overwintering gulls in the area have adapted to the
presence of the turbines, in fact they avoid the turbines. The black headed gull follows the dredger
round the harbour in search of food. Since the wind farm started to operate, only two black headed
gulls have fallen victim to the rotor blades. Otherwise, the turbines have not affected the behaviour
of the gulls.

Two thousand five hundred herring gulls, and 750 great black-backed gulls, winter and roost in South
Harbour, most of which follow the trawler fleet in order to find food. Generally the turbines have not
affected the behaviour of these gulls, but they have killed fourteen herring and six great black-backed
gulls.

Figure 13 Numbers of birds in close proximity to the wind turbines

Figure 13 indicates the number of birds to be killed if all birds were equally likely to collide with the
turbines and if the occurrence of collisions was proportional to their numbers in the area. This is a
large assumption, but provides a good basis for the analysis of the impacts of the turbines (Still et al,
1996).

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Eider ducks, herring, great black-backed and black headed gulls have been found to collide with the
turbines. However, the low rates of these collisions mean that the presence of the turbines has no
significant impact on the bird populations (Still et al, 1996).

It is estimated by scientists in Blyth that the average mortality rate from coastal onshore wind farms is
0.75-5.2 birds per turbine per year.. This figure is higher than those for wind farms in other habitats,
but this could largely be due to the fact that coastal areas also support higher numbers of birds. The
collision rate at Blyth is 1.34 birds per turbine per year, which is lower than other European studies.

Studies (Still et al, 1996) show that the same species use the harbour now as did before the wind farm
was constructed. Some displacement occurred during construction, but these effects were very short
lived. The results of these studies are found to be comparable when compared to other European data
(Still et al, 1996).

5.2.2 OFFSHORE TURBINES

Two offshore turbines are to be constructed between May and September 2000 on North Spit (Figure
14), a rocky outcrop 1km off the Northumberland coast, north – east of the existing nine turbines.
North Spit it submerged at all stages of the tide, even extreme low tide. The two turbines will be
positioned on at each end of the 500m rock feature. The turbines will be 250m apart and will
comprise of a pile 2.6m in diameter with a total height of 70m, including the rotating blades, with a
life expectancy of 20 years.

5.2.3 CONSTRUCTION PHASE

It is thought that the construction phase will be over in 11 weeks:

• Pile drilling and grouting 2 weeks

• Wind turbine installation 1 week

• Commissioning 4 weeks

• Operational testing 4 weeks

During the construction phase, increased boat movements may cause localised changes in the sea bed.
The jack-up barge especially will have an effect on the environment. However, these impacts will be
short lived.

A significant impact will come from the excavated material that will have to be relocated. If it is left
to settle on the substratum it may smother the existing benthic communities. Full drill cutting and
sediment plume modelling was carried out for the Blyth Impact Assessment (Borderwind Ltd, 1998).
By considering current speeds and particle sizes it was concluded that most of the excavated sediment
would settle in the area immediately adjacent to the construction site. Thus, the local morphology of
the seabed would be altered significantly. The seabed around the piles could be raised by more than
1m and by 0.6m over an area of approximately 200m2. Borderwind Ltd therefore proposes to remove
this environmental consequence by removing all of the excavated material from the area.

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Figure 14 Admiralty chart showing location of North Spit

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The construction phase is likely to have very little impact on the water depth and movement in the
area, or on the wave climate or coastal processes. Any changes will come about once the turbines are
in place and will be considered in more detail below.

The most significant impact of the construction of the two turbines will be on the water quality.
Vessels may inadvertently release pollutant into the water, and with more boat movements there is an
increased risk of collisions. Resuspension of particles will in turn affect the biological population.
The construction activities will result in an increased concentration of suspended particles in the
water column. This will reduce the light penetration and thus effect the photosynthetic community.

Cementing and grouting mixtures may also contaminate the water. It is in the contractors best interest
to reduce such contamination as the mixtures are expensive and such losses are costly. Good
engineering practice should reduce the amount lost, but there is always the potential for accidents.

Deterioration in water quality will have a significant effect on the flora and fauna in the area.
Organisms may be smothered, or the organic polymers could be toxic. The organic polymer
originates from the grouting mixture. It is not expected to have an affect on the marine community as
it is used in foodstuffs and is not readily biologically available. However, there have been no studies
yet that monitor its effects or its persistence within the food chain.

In order to reduce the likelihood of any of the above occurring, the following mitigation measures
should be carried out:

• Disturbance during drilling should be minimised.

• Leakage of grouting material should be minimised.

• Loss of potential contaminants over board should be prevented.

• Vessel movements should be well co-ordinated to avoid collisions.

It is thought that some sessile species in the immediate locality of the turbine piles will be lost
whereas mobile species, such as the fish in the area, will be able to swim away to less disturbed areas.
However, predictions suggest that the area will be recolonised relatively quickly once the
construction is finished depending on the time of year, with recruitment from the surrounding area, as
conditions are fairly uniform throughout the area.

The North Spit has a high number of juvenile lobsters associated with it. Therefore it is essential that
the construction phase avoid the spawning season and the period immediately following. Thus,
construction must not be carried out during June – July.

There are many commercially important fish stocks in this area, such as herring, cod and mackerel
with the area being used extensively for feeding and spawning. There are also populations of the
flatfish dab and plaice. While these species do use the area, none of them is restricted solely to this
location.

Whilst construction is underway there will be a degree of disturbance of the habitat and a change in
water quality. The biggest problems to the fish populations will be the increased concentration of

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suspended sediments, a decrease in oxygen concentrations and an increase in pollutant and/or nutrient
levels.

However, as the changes in the environment should be short lived and the fish are able to swim away
during the worst periods, it is considered that the impacts of construction of the turbines on the fish
populations will be negligible.

As the construction is taking place 1km away from the roosting sites, it will have little or no impact
on the birds. As the area is important for over-wintering birds, it is suggested that the construction
takes place during the spring.

Vessel movements may deter marine mammals from the area. However, there are not many marine
mammals associated with this area (Blyth EIA), so it is hoped that any effects will not be a problem
to the population as a whole, and individuals will return once construction is completed.

Some residents are concerned that they will be disturbed by noise during construction. However, as
most of the noise will be sub-marine it is not thought that this will be a issue. As the construction
phase is relatively short there should be no visual intrusion for the local residents. Any plant activity
will be 1km offshore so will not affect the aesthetic value of the landscape.

The construction phase may impact quite significantly on the commercial fishermen in the area. The
fishermen run their salmon drift nets over the spit and are worried they will lose valuable profit while
construction is underway. North Spit is a good area for fishing lobsters, however, studies for the EIA
have shown that there are other better areas in the locality. So whilst the fishermen are affected for a
while during construction, much of the information collated for the EIA has potentially helped them
improve their catches by providing them with alternative fishing areas.

5.2.4 OPERATION

North Spit is mostly bare rock and has very little sediment associated with it. Thus, they will not
change the morphology of the area during construction, as there is no material to be affected by
scouring. No adverse environmental consequences are expected, so no mitigation measures have
been put in place.

The water movements in the area include a tidal wave that moves from north to south down the coast.
The mean spring tidal range is 4.1m. Currents at a mean spring tide reach approximately 0.4knots
and 0.2knots on a neap tide. These currents mean that there is a net transport of sand along the shore
in a southerly direction.

The operations of the turbines should not result in a change in the depth of the water, except at the
point where the pile is fixed to the seabed. The effect of the turbines on water movement will depend
on their wake and funnelling effects. The wake effect is how the turbine effects the water in its
immediate location and this can be measured to identify the area in which the water movements are
altered by the presence of the turbines. Funnelling occurs if the water is forced to pass between the
turbines rather than flowing freely past. Models predict that any “wake effect” will have dissipated
within 30m of the piles a distance of approximately ten times the diameter of the piles. Funnelling
will only be an issue if wave crests are greater than the distance between the two turbines, i.e.250m,

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and such waves are not common in this area. No mitigation measures have been planned here either
as the effects are expected to be so small and only a surface phenomenon.

As there will be zero discharges from the turbines they will have no effect on the water quality. The
grouting material does not leach, so will not have to be replaced in the lifetime of the turbine.
However, the presence of the turbines does increase the potential of a collision and the accidental
release of pollutants into the surrounding area. Ensuring that the turbines are clearly marked on
Admiralty Hydrographic charts can reduce the probability of this occurring.

As there are no discharges the turbines should have no effect on the surrounding benthic community.
Any noise produced should not effect them either. Some species, such as the mussel, may even take
advantage of the new habitat and grow on the foundations, as discussed in the marine fouling section
above.

Fish may be able to hear the low frequency noise generated by the turbines, so there is the potential
for swimming behaviour to be affected. At present there has been very little research in this area. As
the area is very busy anyway, it is considered that that the noise will blend into the other background
noise and not impact on the fish (Blyth EIA). It is also hope that the concrete foundations will act as
artificial reefs as discussed above.

The impacts of turbine populations have been discussed extensively in this project already. The main
impacts will be: -

• disturbance of feeding areas,

• bird collisions with turbines,

• the effect on flight patterns,

• the risk of attracting birds to new features.

Ongoing monitoring is planned, to ensure that bird mortality rates do not increase from present rates
during the operation of the turbines.

Marine mammals may be affected by operation related noise. However, any noise emitted will be at
frequencies similar to those associated with existing activities in the harbour, therefore they are not
expected to further affect the mammals.

It is also unlikely that the human population will be significantly affected by noise. The turbines will
emit noise in two ways. Some will pass down the pile and out through the water column and
therefore will not affect people. The remainder of the noise will originate from the rotor blades and
nacelle and will be propagated through the air.

Mechanical noise will be generated by the operation of the gearbox, generator and other components
and the blades will produce aerodynamic noise. However, the level of this noise is low if compared
to other everyday sources such as road traffic and trains. Borderwind Ltd are hoping to reduce the
impacts of noise generation by choosing blades that have been designed well to minimise noise
production, and nacelles where the gearbox and generator have been well insulated.

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The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has a Wind Turbine Noise Working Group that has
stated that turbine noise level must be maintained within 5 decibels of the existing background noise
level. This standard will be met in Blyth.

As the turbines are being constructed in an industrial area that already houses nine turbines, it is
thought that they will not affect the general landscape value of the area. Upon the DETR’s request,
the turbines are to be painted yellow and fitted with navigation lights to ensure that they can be seen
by all vessels. The local populations are also unlikely to have problems with the visual intrusion of
the turbines as they will only be seen by looking out through the existing nine turbines (Figure 15).

Figure 15 Map to show eventual location of the two new turbines in relation to the existing turbines

At present salmon fishermen run drift nets that “shall float and drift freely with the tide unimpeded. It
may be attached at one end to the fishing boat provided that the boat itself is also completely free to
drift with the wind and tide and is not anchored in any way.” Many of the fishermen fell that the
turbines will restrict their free run along this section of the coast. A Fisheries Intensity Study (FSI)
concluded that the fishermen in the area would find a way to fish around the structures (Blyth EIA).
The study also decided that the fish taken from the North Spit area only represented a very small
percentage of the fishermen’s earnings.

5.2.5 CONCLUSION

It can be seen that all the environmental consequences of the two proposed turbines have been
considered. Detailed studies have been carried out and mitigation measures have been put in place
where potential impacts have been anticipated. Table 9 shows a ranking of the perceived problems
with the new turbines. The impacts have been ranked on a scale of 1 – 5, where 1 is serious and 5 is
not significant. Table 10 sets out the mitigation measures proposed to minimise the impacts.

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Table 9 Perceived problems following construction of wind farm

Area of impact Ranking


Birds 4
Suspended solids 3
Contamination of sediments 5
Marine mammals 5
Noise 5
Fishermen 3
Hydrography and sediment changes 4
Fish 4
Boat movements 3

Table 10 Mitigation measures

• Construction of alternative roost sites of birds for the coastal turbines

• Removal of sediments during construction to reduce suspended sediment levels

• Careful timing to avoid affecting the flora and fauna

• Comprehensive monitoring to assess all impacts on the system

• Clear marking of turbines on Admiralty charts

• Lights and foghorns on turbines to reduce chances of collisions

• Good engineering practice to minimise chances of contamination of the sediments

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5.3 THE DANISH EXPERIENCE

The Danish wind experience is one of the most successful in the world, dominating the world’s fastest
growing energy source (Greenpeace 1998).

Table 11 A Summary of the History of Danish Wind Power

1981 Teacher Poul la Cour generates first wind powered electricity


1956 Gedser wind turbine foreshadows later designs
1973 Oil crisis prompts renewed interest in wind energy
1976 First wind turbine connected to the grid
1978 Risø wind energy test station and research centre opens
1979 First Government support for wind turbines
1981 National Energy Plan sets goal for 1 000 MW of wind energy by 2000
1985 Nuclear power abandoned as a fuel source
1991 First offshore wind farm built at Vindeby, consisting of 11 Bonus 450kW stall controlled
wind turbines.
1993 Wind power capacity grows to 500 MW, enough for 3% of electricity
1995 Second offshore wind farm opens at Tunø Knob consisting of 10 Vesta turbines with a total
installed power or 5MW
1998 Wind power capacity reaches 1 200MW, 7% of country’s electricity demand. Target for 5
500 MW of wind power by 2030 mostly offshore, 50% of country’s demand.

(From Greenpeace, 1998)

5.3.1 ECONOMICS

The Danish Central Bureau of Statistics, the Danish Energy Agency and the Risø National Laboratory
have published data that show that a modern Danish 600 kW turbine will recover all the energy spent
on its manufacture, maintenance and decommissioning within approximately three months of
commissioning. Ultimately, it will generate 80 times this amount of power (Metoc, 1999).

5.3.2 THE DANISH WIND INDUSTRY

The value of the wind was discovered in Denmark by a teacher, Poul la Cour. He adapted a
clapboard sail from his windmill to generate electricity. He was able to produce enough electricity to
light his school and the village (Greenpeace, 1998).

The Danish wind industry became more important in 1980 and by 1997 had a turnover of US$750
million, and is still growing. It is now one of the biggest machinery manufacturing industries in
Denmark. By 1998 Denmark had five major turbine manufacturers, twelve large component
suppliers and many smaller companies. The industry now employs approximately 12, 000 people
(Greenpeace, 1998).

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Denmark now has almost 5, 000 wind turbines in operation that generate enough power to supply 7%
of Danish electricity consumption. This has enabled the Danish Government to cut its carbon dioxide
emissions by 3% (Greenpeace, 1998). The Danish industry is so successful that not only has it
installed all of its own turbines, but it has also had 35, 000 other wind turbines installed world wide,
in countries as far reaching as Ireland, UAS and Poland (Greenpeace, 1998).

Denmark has succeed in convincing people that wind power is good, a fact that is reflected by the fact
that over 100, 000 Danish families now either own or have shares in wind energy schemes
(Greenpeace, 1998).

5.3.3 OFFSHORE WIND POWER

The Danish government has devised a national action plan that aims to have more that 4, 000MW of
wind power installed offshore by 2030, a figure that would meet 40% of the country’s electricity
demand. The power would be split into four large wind farms, each consisting of 80 to 100 large
turbines.

It is hoped that about 500 turbines, 750MW of power, will be in operation by 2008. This phase alone
should reduce the emission of carbon dioxide by 2.1 million tonnes a year, making up 17.5% of the
national 20% carbon dioxide reduction target for 2005 (Greenpeace, 1998).

All plans for the new wind farm proposals are based on feedback from the two existing pilot offshore
farms. The 5MW farms were built in Vindeby in 1991 and Tunø knob in 1995 (Greenpeace, 1988)
(Figure 16).

Figure 16 Offshore turbines in Denmark

Technology has moved on which means that the new wind farms will be even more economically
viable. Bigger turbines of 1.5MW capacity, in groups of about 100, make better use of the expansive
cabling needed to transfer the energy back to the shore. Also, the cost of constructing the foundations
has decreased. The Danish Energy Agency believes that costs can be cut by a third if steel is used
instead of concrete. Steel is also lighter and therefore easier to transport. Engineering companies

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also now believe that they can install turbines at sea depths of up to 15m at no extra cost. This means
that more of the seabed is now available for installation (Greenpeace, 1998).

Small-scale farms close to the coast may well clash with leisure interests, so the action plan
recommends a small no of very large wind parks further out to sea, 7 – 10km from the coast.

5.3.4 TUNØ KNOB OFFSHORE WIND FARM

Tunø Knob, 6km offshore, was the second offshore wind farm to be constructed in Denmark after the
success of the first one built in Vindeby in 1991. The ten Vesta wind turbines, with a total installed
power of 5MW, was commissioned in October 1995. Now that it is fully operational it generates 15
million units of electricity per year, which is enough to power 4, 000 homes. This farm therefore
displaces the need for 6,000 tonnes of coal and the emission of 12.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide
(Greenpeace, 1998).

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5.4 SCROBY SANDS

At present there are plans for a 40 MW+ wind farm at Scroby Sands, consisting of 25 1.5MW
turbines, at a total cost of £35 million. Scroby Sands run in a north south direction, 3 km off the
Norfolk coastline in the Great Yarmouth region (Farrier).

Scroby Sands

Figure 17 Map showing location of Scroby Sands

It is thought that the sandbank will provide a good substratum for the construction of the steel pile
turbine foundations. The foundations will be conical concrete and filled with gravel. They will have
to pass through 5 to 10 m of sand in order to reach the clay underneath. The turbine towers will rise
through 6m of water, upon which will be mounted the blades and turbine nacelle. The total height of
the turbines will be 60m. The towers will be built to withstand salt spray that could cause corrosion.
They will also be fitted with computers in the nacelle to ensure that shut down occurs in high winds
in order to prevent damage to the turbines. (pers.comm. David Farrier. PowerGen).

5.4.1 EXPLORATION PHASE

A wind monitoring station has been in operation since 1995 in order to assess the wind resource of
the area. The data have given a comparison of the on and offshore wind resource and allowed the
theoretical prediction of energy generation levels at the site.

Wave and scour studies have been carried out by measuring oceanographic parameters, the results of
which have helped with turbine foundation design. They have also provided information regarding
the movement of the sandbank, and the potential environmental consequences of the turbines in the
locality (Farrier, 1997).

5.4.2 CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATION

An environmental impact assessment is being carried out to assess the visual impact, noise, ecological
effects and effects on other users in the area (Farrier, 1997).

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5.4.3 PRESENT SITUATION

At present, an application for a FEPA licence is being prepared. PowerGen have been successful in
its application for a grant from the Thermie Scheme, which assists projects in obtaining funding from
the EU.

5.4.4 SUMMARY

There is very little public domain material available on this proposal at the present time as it is still in
the planning stages. However, it is clear that there is the potential for a wind farm in the Scroby
Sands area. It remains to be seen as to whether the environmental consequences will be small enough
to allow construction to go ahead.

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6.0 ALTERNATIVES

6.1 Floating offshore wind farm


At present FLOAT, an offshore floating wind turbine, is only a conceptual design, but the designers
hope that it will be put into practice in the near future. Tecnomare (UK) ltd., Garrad Hasson and
Partners ltd., and BMT Offshore ltd are carrying out the FLOAT project (Tong, 1998).

A conceptual design has been developed covering the floating structure, the tower, the mooring
system, turbine and electrical transmission system. This has involved detailed studies of wind and
wave dynamics in conjunction with analysis if floater motion. Full cost analysis has also been carried
out to ensure the project’s economic viability.

Figure 18 FLOAT design

The floater support system for FLOAT is made up of the tower, the floater hull and the moorings to
the seabed. To avoid wetting of the blades while still maximising power generation, the hub height is
to be 45m with a 60m diameter rotor. The tower weight also had to be reduced in order to ensure
FLOAT stability. Thus the final design was a compromise between maximum energy production and
maximum stability of the structure during all weather conditions.

Seven hundred and eighty tonnes of ballast will be needed in a tubular concrete buoy in order to keep
the turbine upright. The spare space inside the 28.5m high buoy will be filled with synthetic foam in
order to avoid flooding if the shell cracks.

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The primary job of the mooring system is to hold the turbine in place irrespective of the drifting
movement of the wind and the waves. Eight mooring lines are to be used so that if one breaks there
will still be sufficient remaining to hold the structure in place. Using this method to hold the turbine
in place, water depths from 75 to 500m should be exploitable for energy generation from wind power.

The mooring lines will be made from taut wire synthetic fibre rope or catenary chain. These will then
be connected to piled anchors in the seabed. Each anchor will have more than one chain attached to
it, thus reducing further the area of seabed that will be affected by the structure.

The tower must be light as it is more expensive to build heavier towers and it is essential to keep the
costs low to keep the venture economically viable. The tower base will be an 8.8m side triangle.

A new turbine had to be designed so that it would generate power efficiently on a floating platform.
It will take advantage of the higher wind speeds found further offshore. It has therefore been decided
to use a free yawing mechanism and a downwind rotor. A three bladed configuration was also
chosen.

As these turbines will have the option of being located at a considerable distance offshore it has been
decided that noise generation is not an issue. Therefore, the FLOAT turbine can operate at a high
rotational speed. The lightweight rotor of these turbines will only weigh 41 tonnes and will generate
energy during wind speeds of 6 – 26 m/s.

It is planned that wind farms will consist of 9 floating structures that are situated 1km apart from each
other so that turbine aerodynamic interference is minimised. All the power generated by the farm as a
whole will be collected at a central point underwater and will transmitted to shore via a 33kV static
cable after being stepped up by an underwater transformer.

The nature of the structures means that they can be constructed on land and towed out to the required
location. This can either be by floating the turbines on the water and towing them, or by carrying
them out on boats. The installation will involve two separate phases. The first will involve the fixing
of the anchors to the substratum and the second will involve the placing of the turbines and the fixing
of the moorings. Diagonally opposite lines will be tighten together to achieve the necessary tension
so that the buoy does not move from the desired location.

The main environmental consequences of these floating structures are the noise that they generate and
the visual intrusion that they cause. Some access for fishermen will be restricted too. Thus during
site selection it is important to consider the existing users of the area and not construct the turbines in
busy navigational areas or fishing grounds.

During installation there will be limited, localised disturbance to the seabed, but once this is
completed the effects should be minimal (Tong, 1998).

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Table 12 A comparison of FLOAT and conventional designs

FLOAT Conventional
Further offshore, so less Nearer shore so
noise heard potential for more noise

Can utilise higher wind Uses lower wind speeds


speeds
Can be constructed on Some construction
land and tower into needed on site.
position
Less impact on
substratum and
hydrographic regime
Other impacts very similar for both models

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7.0 CONCLUSIONS

This report clearly indicates that the wind power generation industry has the potential to become very
significant in the attempt to reduce green house gas emissions. The large-scale wind resource makes
it a more attractive source of power than hydropower or that produced by the combustion of fossil
fuels (EWEA).

Wind power is generated from a free energy source and generates zero emissions. These two facts
alone mean that it is a good choice for the future, however, it offers a great many other advantages.
During construction many jobs will be created during the development, manufacture and assembly of
the turbine components. The expansion of the wind industry will also provide more jobs, as
maintenance engineers, for example, will be needed for the wind farms. As the generation is less
intense than that for conventional power stations, more and wide-spread units are required, thus it is a
diffuse source of energy generation.

On a very local level, ten to forty turbines will generate enough electricity for 4 – 16, 000 households
(EWEA). Therefore this method of electricity generation could be particularly useful for island
communities.

Studies have shown that any adverse environmental consequences that occur during the exploration
and construction phases will be relatively short lived. Once the construction is complete the system
should return to its original state. Local effects on fish communities and bird populations can be
reduced or mitigated for by carrying out the construction at a carefully chosen time of year.

Until further studies have been carried out and highlight longer term consequences, it would appear
that the operation phase does not cause many significant problems.

All potential problems associated with wind power generation along with their mitigation measures
are summarised in the table below (Table 13).

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Table 13 Summary of the environmental consequences of wind power generation


Phase Environmental consequence Mitigation measure
Exploration Effect of suspended suspnded Good site selection should
sediment on flora and fauna reduce the number of species
that could be affected
Effect of seismic activity on fish Careful timing ensuring that
and mammals fish are not affected at their
most sensitive time of year,
such as during spawning
periods
Construcction Increased boat movements Ensure all other users of the
area are aware to reduce the
chances of a collision
Increaesd levels of suspended Good site selection should
sediment through trenching reduce the number of species
&/or tunnelling for cables that could be affected
The contamination of sediments Good engineering practice
by chemicals
The generation of noise The use of bubble curtains to
disrupt the propagation of noise
through the water column

Operation Chaniges in hydrographic A good understanding of the


regime and sedminet processes in the are should
characteristics allow engineers to minimise
effects
Detrimental effects on bird Good siting away from roost,
populations migration routes, and
overwintering area. Warning
lights and beepers on turbines.
Construction of other roosts
away from the turbines

Detrimental effects on fish The creation of artificial reefs,


populations good site selection and careful
timing to avoid environmentally
sensitive times of year

Reduction in cetaceans ability The use of bubble curtains to


to feed and communicate disrupt the propagation of noise
through noise generation through the water column

Disruption to local fishermen Compensation to fishermen.


Good communication so that
fishermen know where they can
still work once the turbines are
in operation
Increased boat movements, Turbines must be marked
consequential increased risk of clearly on Admiralty charts and
collisions and physical presence must be fitted with lights and
of turbines foghorns, especially for use
during bad weather conditions

Page 48 Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies


Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
M.Sc Dissertation by K Parkinson

The environmental consequences of offshore wind power generation can be divided into two
categories, those that are generic and those that are site specific. It is expected that by identifying
these two groups that ways can be found to reduce the extent of the generic impacts, largely by better
design of the turbines and by good engineering practice. Once this has been achieved, it is thought
that the monetary and environmental costs of building an offshore wind farm can be reduced. Table
14 shows the categories of the impacts:

Table 14 Generic and site specific environmental consequences of offshore wind power
generation and the justification of classification
Area of impact Site specific Generic Justification
Fish + Depends whether area
is important as a
feeding or spawning
area
Birds + Depends whether area
is important as a roost
or for feeding or
overwintering
Mammals + Depends whether they
are present in an area

Suspended sediments + matrix (see below)


and benthis
communities
Boat movements + Will always increase
the chance of a collision

Contamination of + Can be stopped by good


sediments engineering practice

Noise + Depends on people in


the surrounding area

There is the potential for the development of a sediment matrix that would allow developers to
understand the impacts of constructing a wind farm on a particular site, following the analysis of a
sediment sample. The studies carried out to create the matrix would have to produce information
about, for example:

• the stability of each sediment type,

• the changes that it would undergo if a turbine were put in place

• potential changes in the flora and fauna

• whether the sediment could support a turbine

In order to achieve this various kinds of sediments would have to be taken from a number of different
areas and analysed for how the structure and benthic communities would change with the addition of
turbines. The construction of this matrix would take some time, as the most obvious way of obtaining
information is to monitor sediments around existing wind farms. A matrix would then have to be
constructed, perhaps similar to the one suggested below (Table 15)

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
M.Sc Dissertation by K Parkinson

Table 15 Suggested sediment matrix

Sediment type Highly sensitiveSensitive No impact

Rock

Gravel

Sand

Silt

The extent of the impact would also be linked to the mobility of the sediments. Changes in the
hydrodynamics will lead to a wider change if the sediments are mobile than they would if the
sediments were highly cohesive and therefore less easy to move.

Ticks would then be placed in the appropriate box to indicate the sensitivity of the area. Developers
would then be able to take a sediment sample, analyse its type and then read off the sensitivity from
the above matrix. Although very general, such a matrix would reduce the need and expense of
extensive benthic surveys.

Another option would be to create a model that relates sediment type to fauna and then assess
quantitative changes. At present this model is under development by the Institute of Estuarine and
Coastal Studies (Pers Comm. Dr M.Elliott, Director) and partly follows Elliott and O’Reilly (1991).

After analysis of figures 4, 5, and 8 it would appear that the conceptual models are correct given
current knowledge. All the arrows are in the correct positions and no other links have appeared. To
increase the value of these conceptual models it would be useful to quantify all of the arrows. This
proved to be outside the scope of this project, because as yet there is insufficient information to add
figures anywhere. However, it would be a distinct advantage to be able to tell a developer that the
construction of a wind farm would result in the loss of x tonnes of sediment rather than just “some”.
Therefore it would appear that this is an area that deserves much investment in order to complete the
knowledge on this subject.

An original aim of the current study was to categorise the environmental consequences of offshore
wind power generation by importance, however this was not the case. The literature indicates that,
there is very little difference in the extent of any of the impacts and it also depends on what view you
take. Marine biologists are concerned with changes in sediment structure, the benthic communities
and the hydrographic regime. This last point could be considered as one of the most significant as the
turbines will change local water movements. As yet, however, it is not known over what area the
changes will be detected and now many turbines need to be in what area to cause serious problems.

Fishermen will see the interference in their fishing as the biggest problem. However, apart from the
area immediately around the base of the turbines, very little of the area should be affected. They may
have to re-cast their nets once they pass the turbines, but otherwise they should be able to fish
relatively unimpeded. Also, as discussed earlier, the area around the turbines may serve as a closed
area and allow fish populations to grow and this increase the fishermen’s catches. Hard surfaces will
increase sessile faunal populations and this increase fish food.

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
M.Sc Dissertation by K Parkinson

Through experience the general public are often more concerned about charismatic megafauna than
scientific detrimental changes to systems. Therefore it could be expected that people would perceive
the impacts on the bird and fish populations to be more significant than changes in the local
hydrographic regime. For this reason it would be important, when planning a new wind farm, to
educate people in the small impacts the turbines have on the local fauna.

Finally 16 table shows the costs of wind power generation verses the benefits.

Table 16 Costs vs benefits of wind power generation

Costs Benefits
Clean power with no emissions
Expense of commissioning Free energy source
Dependant on the wind Limitless power source
Safe
Helps reduce emission of GHGs
Some effects on flora and fauna
Visual and noise intrusion
Changes in sediment and
hydrographic regimes
Reduction in fishing area Closed areas will hopefully promote fish
populations

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
M.Sc Dissertation by K Parkinson

8.0 FURTHER WORK

There is scope for further work in this area. Studies to quantify the arrows in the conceptual models
would be invaluable. A greater understanding of the processes involved in changes to the
hydrographic and sediment transport regimes are also needed. The knowledge of areas like this is
only going to be expanded by the continued, detailed monitoring of existing wind farms. If sufficient
funding were available, it would be very useful to construct wind farms, or at least single turbines, in
different regimes in order to assess the responses of different systems. Data should be collected on
the following subjects:

• Sediment changes

• Alterations to the hydrographic regime

• Changes in the benthic communities

• Levels of suspended sediments during construction

• Affects on birds, fish and sea mammals

• Changes in the number of boat movements

• Noise and visual intrusion

• Public perception of turbines

With more research in these areas it should be possible to create a model of change. At present there
is not enough quantitative information available for this to be possible.

It is only with experience that wind farms are going to be constructed that have few environmental
consequences. Given time, wind energy should be one of the most environmentally and economically
viable of electricity generation.

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Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind Power Generation
M.Sc Dissertation by K Parkinson

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Page 55 Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies